Hospital turns its trash into treasure

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Gold Coast Private Hospital is going green in a big way – and its innovative recycling policies not only reduce large amounts of waste but also provide benefits for the wider community.

Medical equipment is being turned into garden hoses and children's playground matting, plastic bottles are helping to fund local charities, and food scraps are feeding animals and fertilising gardens.

“It’s about making changes that we hope will ultimately see a cleaner, greener environment, because it's the smallest things that we do now that will make the biggest difference in years to come," said Jodie Ma Chong, whose job as head of the hospital's Green Group is to engage staff from all levels and departments in environmentally-friendly practices.

“We are recycling everything we possibly can – from plastic tubs, foam eskies and bubble wraps, to PVC medical devices such as oxygen masks, printer cartridges, ventilator tubes, batteries, reading glasses, magazines and books,” she added.

This year, in partnership with medical supply company Baxter, Gold Coast Private has already recycled 1,200 tonnes of PVC which has been used to make rubber hoses and playground mats. It has also recycled 14,000 batteries and stopped sending 5,000 styrofoam cups to landfill every week by banning the single-use containers in its cafeteria and staff rooms.

“Our Green Group is not a quick fix, it’s about finding clever ways we can reduce waste and improve what we are doing to our environment,” Ms Ma Chong said.

Gold Coast Private nurse Linda Sawrey with bottles for recycling.

Staff are collecting plastic bottle lids and delivering them to schools participating in a program for children's prosthetics, while the bottles are taken to the container exchange and the cashback is donated to charities such as 'Broken to Brilliant', which supports domestic violence victims.

Employees are also benefiting – the hospital's maintenance team turns pallets into furniture for staff, such as book shelves and storage units, while the food-scraps bin has proved popular for chicken feed and composting purposes.

Gold Coast Private general manager David Harper said he hoped more healthcare organisations would take an active role in reducing waste.

“There is a great deal of product in hospitals that is thrown away and will sadly end up in landfill, but with a few tweaks we have recycled reusable plastics and expanded the lifespan of regular items that would usually be thrown out.

“We are seeing fantastic results and it's great to see the enthusiasm of those involved and the countless other staff members getting on board,” he said.

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